Wednesday November 21, 2012

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid remained elevated for a second straight week because Superstorm Sandy forced many people to seek temporary benefits.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that first-time applications for benefits fell by 41,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 410,000. That offset only part of the previous week’s surge.

Two weeks ago, the storm drove applications up by 90,000 to 451,000, an 18-month high.

Here are the states with the biggest increases and decreases in applications:

States with the biggest increases:

New York: Up 43,956, because Superstorm Sandy caused temporary layoffs in construction, restaurants and transportation

New Jersey: Up 31,094, because Sandy caused temporary layoffs in hotels, restaurants, manufacturing, transportation, health care and construction

California: Up 24,693, because of layoffs in the services industry

Pennsylvania: Up 7,037, because Sandy caused temporary layoffs in construction and transportation

Connecticut: Up 1,808, because of temporary layoffs from Sandy

Wisconsin: Up 1,674, no reason given

States with the biggest decreases:

Ohio: Down 4,996, due to fewer layoffs in manufacturing

The Stock Market

Stocks hovered near break-even Wednesday on Wall Street ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down a fraction of a point at 1,387. Bank stocks and utilities fell the most, while industrial companies rose the most, but no category of stock moved more than 0.5 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 25 points to 12,814. Three expensive Dow stocks -- IBM, United Technologies and Boeing -- each rose more than 65 cents. High-dollar stocks in the Dow carry more weight.

The Nasdaq composite index was up two points at 2,918.